The UK Government believes the new pharmaceutical drug pricing scheme will increase the uptake and adoption of innovative medicines. But will it?  Uptake, innovation and a play to the taxpayer and British economy – these are the buzzwords the UK Government has focused on as it heralds its new Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme. 

Citing all things positive, the Department of Health describes the new drug pricing plan as a “breakthrough deal” that “will allow the NHS to increase the availability and use of the best branded medicines and most innovative treatments without risking a spiralling bill for the taxpayer”. It further promises that the PPRS will increase the use of new medicines, and strengthen Britain’s life sciences sector, while “balancing the books in a tough economic environment” and providing certainty on NHS drugs spend. 

But is it all poppycock? Certainly companies that PharmaTimes Magazine talked to were sceptical about improved access to drugs. They claim the new scheme has forced the industry into an era of austerity by slapping on a 3.74% rebate for net sales that take the NHS over its £12 billion medicines bill cap (read our story on pp28-30, December 2013 issue). All this reflects a government drive to focus on costs rather than saving lives, they say. 

Indeed, Chris Stirling, global head of life sciences at KPMG, fears the changes may have a negative impact on patient care in the future. “The UK’s pricing strategy needs to have a more long-term vision in order to support the rising demand for new treatments and the cost of developing them,” he says.

An industry insider who prefers to remain nameless told PharmaTimes Magazine the PPRS will not increase drugs uptake on its own. “The provisions are important but for this to work it relies on NHS England to follow through and that’s an ongoing battle.” A “slog” is what she calls it, with the NHS uncommitted to the promises in the Innovation, Health and Wealth report. “Can the NHS move from a place of seeing medicines as a cost and a problem to an investment in health and saving lives and preventing A&E admissions? The cultural change to drive more prescribing isn’t there.” She maintains: “I would be surprised to see any change in prescribing behaviour on the back of this PPRS.”

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PharmaTimes is hosting a special Ask The Experts event on 26 February on PPRS and value-based assessment, with senior leaders from the DH, NICE, NHS England and patient groups there to take your questions. Find out more here